tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 28, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
on our broadcast tonight, on the ground. president obama sees the beaches close up and makes a public promise, but what went on at the private meeting he had with some local folks? is it working? what we know tonight about this latest try to plug the leaking oil. fallen star. the sudden death of a still-young actor. troubled life coming to an end. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. the oil spill in the gulf goes on. days ago now it became the largest of its kind in u.s. history. more crude oil comes out with every minute that goes by. this so-called top kill procedure, more of an attempt at it continues. we still have no firm word on any success.
today, the president visited the region again. he saw some tiny bits of evidence of the spill on a beach that we're told was clean just prior to his arrival. he had a long meeting with local officials. in a moment we'll hear from a man who was there for it. he said if anyone involved in running this cleanup operation gets frustrated that they're not being heard, "talk to me." the president urged them to call him directly. president obama visited grand isle, louisiana, and our chief white house correspondent chuck todd covered the visit and starts us off from there tonight. chuck, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. on the heels of that press conference yesterday, which was sort of an opening salvo of this public relations offensive, the president delayed the start of his mini vacation to make his second trip to the gulf since the deep water horizon exploded 39 days ago. the president saw and felt first hand today the sticky oil that has washed ashore here in grand
isle, louisiana. >> these are the tar balls they're talking about. >> reporter: these nickel and quarter-sized oil tar balls the president held in his own hand are all over this barrier island. it comes in as fast as bp's cleanup crews can pick it up. >> either the boom soaks the stuff up or manually you can pick up these tar balls as they are coming ashore. >> reporter: it wasn't just what he felt and saw, but what he heard. a planned 30-minute meeting with local leaders turned out into a two-hour gripefest. when he emerged, the president insisted he is calling the shots. >> as i said yesterday and repeated in the meeting we just left, i ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. i'm the president and the buck stops with me. >> reporter: for some in grand isle watching the president today at the starfish restaurant, mr. obama's words were appreciated, but they're
the not enough. >> i hope it's not just lip service. >> but don't be blind-sided by what they're telling you in washington. come down here and live with this. >> reporter: for so many in this community this oil spill is threatening their livelihood. shrimp and oyster boats sit idle in this marina. >> after katrina, we had to sit down for a month, but for this nobody ever seen it and we don't know what to expect. nobody knows what to expect in the fishing industry. >> reporter: while the president didn't interact much with local residents, he did acknowledge their frustration and pleaded for patience. >> we face a long-term recovery and restoration effort. america has never experienced an event like this before. that means that as we respond to it, not every judgment we make is going to be right the first time out. >> reporter: despite words of comfort, the president didn't avoid the bleak reality. >> even if the leak was stopped today, it wouldn't change the
fact that these waters still contain oil from what is now the largest spill in american history. >> reporter: and the president admitted more bad new for these communities on these barrier islands. basically, they've run out of the boom that is supposed to protect the oil or at least soak up some of this oil as it comes in. the president said they're going to try to speed up the manufacturing process. ironically, brian, earlier today admiral fadisland said they had plenty of boom and needed to get it there, but apparently that is not the case. >> chuck todd in grand isle, louisiana, tonight. david camardelle is the mayor. he was there today. mr. mayor, how heated did it get in that room? what did you tell the president and do you think you were heard today? >> yes, sir. it wasn't bad at all. we had between the representatives there and parish
presidents, we got to talk one-on-one across the table with the president there. he said he was on the island, he's seen the tar balls and he's seen the photos of the oil, and we told him what was going on in the last four weeks and we just needed a commander in chief to come in and make some changes where we can deal with an official from bp and also from the coast guard. >> james carville was saying yesterday, i hope to goodness they get him out there into the grass, into the cane and show him that crude oil inside the marsh. that didn't happen today. in fact, the beach looked pretty clean. is it true it was cleaned up just before he arrived? >> yes, sir. the oil in grand isle the last two days was fairly light in that area, but some of the oil came into the eastern part of the island toward cooperville
and that area. you're right. he didn't get to get on a boat. he spent two hours with us. i did put a map on the table and told him we had four passes to block. he wanted me to get with the admiral and show actually what we were talking about. he's going to make sure we meet pretty quick. the governor did a good job. everybody that represented louisiana talking to the president did a great job and told the president his concerns. i was very impressed with the president because he listened to all of us. he made sure his secretary was taking notes to make sure they get back with us. we got a conference call with the president at 1:30. he said, guys, get back online and make sure any problems, get back at 1:30 and i'll conference from the white house and tell us what you need. i'm going to be honest with you, brian. he is a man with a heart. he's seen the frustration through all our faces and took
us individually right across the table, just like a family together, and we told him the needs and each one of us expressed our needs. at the same time he would turn to the right, to the left, and he came back and answered us and told us, i'm here to represent you. i want to work with you. mr. mayor, i understand your frustration. i had tears in my eyes because the water is where we make a living with. you've seen my congressman charley cry and testify in front of congress. i was born and raised here. between our elected official, our council and police chief and all the residents, we make a living off the waters. the marinas, restaurant owners, the shrimp dock you're look at behind me. it's devastating. all the waters are closed. i never thought in my lifetime, being the mayor of grand isle, i told the president i can handle
any hurricanes, but as far as this, i need his help to help me get somebody to give us the green light so we can make our decisions quick. >> mr. mayor, thank you very much on this big day down in that region for spending time with us. we know memorial day weekend would normally be a bustling place in grand isle. we are sorry for your suffering. the mayor in grand isle, louisiana, david camardelle, with us live. we turn back with bp's attempt to stop this billowing oil. in venice, louisiana, our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson is keeping an eye on all that's going on a mile beneath the surface. anne is with us again tonight with an update on that situation. anne, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. bp says it will continue that top kill technique over the weekend. late this evening, bp described the top kill technique as a process that stops and starts. it said it has used the junk shot in an effort to try to plug
that well, an effort that's gone on far longer than anyone anticipated. when bp started shooting mud into the well wednesday, it said we would know by now if top kill worked. but the beleaguered oil giant keeps moving the finish line and now says it will be sunday. >> we'll continue this operation until such time we believe it will be successful. >> in the absence of answers, there's lots of speculation. >> there's certainly a lot of mud blowing out of that. it doesn't look like the rate of outflow slowed much. that's of concern to me. >> reporter: even if top kill succeeds in staunching the flow, experts say the relief wells must still be drilled. >> they are going to plug the well at the very bottom. that will be the final complete plug. they will do it anyway regardless of whether these techniques work or not. >> reporter: today in redfish
bay we found more evidence of the advancing destruction of louisiana's coast. here the boom is no defense against the crude. this is the worst-case scenario, the oil is here adding a dark ugly border to louisiana's green coast, and choking the wetlands. the roso cane is clearly succumbing to the oil, taking with it the habitat and nourishment for local birds and fish. 100 miles west, the coast guard took the media to witness its response effort there, using absorbant pads to soak up the oil in the marsh. late this afternoon the federal government announced it is closing more of the gulf of mexico to fishing. 25% of the waters, some 60,000 square miles are closed to fishing. here in louisiana, the state has reopened some oyster areas, giving those oyster men economic and emotional whiplash.
>> anne thompson in plaquemine's parish in louisiana where it's a hand-to-hand fight. anne, thanks. as we established this current effort to stop the leak never worked on oil wells under water. with no clear success yet, it is fair to ask, if it fails, what do they do next? that story tonight from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: to be successful, experts say it's critical that the ongoing top kill effort forces heavy mud all what it down the well, as much as 13,000 feet below the ocean's floor where the pressure is enormous. anything less and the oil could surge and blow back out. gene beck is a petroleum engineering professor at texas a&m. >> if it's not done fully and correctly, it might be a very temporary fix. >> reporter: if the pressure isn't contained, the casings that hold pipe together could rupture, causing the oil to seep out of the pipe under the ocean's floor. if the top kill doesn't work, bp
may cut the damaged pipe, then attach what it calls a lower marine riser package to channel the oil. cutting the pipe could mean more oil would flow out even faster. >> you might be making a choice to let the well blow out at an even higher rate for a brief period of time because you have a high chance of killing it, if you can get the additional equipment on it. >> reporter: ultimately the best, but slowest solution is the relief well. actually two wells that will take at least until august, drilling 18,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, then cutting across at 90 degrees and intersecting precisely with the bad well then sealing it off. the hope is that they can temporarily shut off the flow before then. >> the nightmare scenario is this goes on until august, september and we have 100 million gallons plus of crude oil in the gulf of mexico destroying marine life, destroying fish, destroying birds, destroying wildlife on the beaches, in the water, in
the march. >> reporter: most experts don't expect it will take nine months to seal the well like the 1979 disaster off mexico. they also admit none of this has ever been tried at these depths. tom costello, nbc news, washington. as we move to other news tonight, brief update on wall street where there's an old saying, sell in may and go away. it sure was true this year. the dow was down more than 122 points on the day, capping off a horrendous month. the blue chips down almost 8% of total value, the worst may since 1962. >> when "nightly news" continues on a friday evening, remembering a child star whose life took some hard turns later on. gary coleman has died. l. people love 'em! gecko: yeah, thank you sir. turned out nice. boss: got another one for you. anncr: at geico.com, it's easy to get a free rate quote, manage your policy, make payments or even file a claim! boss: now that's a ringtone. gecko: uh yeah...it's interesting....
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as we mentioned, a well known name in hollywood is gone and a short, but troubled life is over tonight. gary coleman died today after a brain hemorrhage after a fall. he was just 42 years old. our own lee cowan has a look back tonight. >> what you talking about? >> reporter: you know a catch phrase has taken hold when it's just catchy enough to get the attention of the white house. >> action. >> what you talking about, mrs. reagan? >> reporter: that was gary coleman's signature. for eight years on nbc's "different strokes" it propelled those chubby cheeks to stardom. >>illis is a pretty boy while i've got these rugged good looks. >> reporter: for all his 42 years he would remain small in
stature. a chronic kidney disease stunted his growth. it was fame that coleman said later in life he wished he never had. >> i am not cut out for this business. i never was. >> i think what he was saying he wasn't cut out for the rejection he faced from hollywood after his success as a child star. >> reporter: his health problems continued to dog him and so did his legal troubles, including being charged with assault. >> so i hit her. >> reporter: and the cameras were always there. >> i try to avoid bad press, but it seems to find me anyway. >> reporter: his childhood fortune dried up. at one point forcing coleman to work as a security guard. that became a punchline. >> gary is an expert in national security, mall security, parking lot security. >> reporter: he took it in stride as best he could. this afternoon, he was taken off life support. his head injury was too severe. the wise-cracking kid had fallen silent in a coma with his wife
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in political news tonight, the obama white house admitted today they dispatched a former president, bill clinton, to do a political job for them. clinton tried to talk pennsylvania congressman joe sestak out of challenging the incumbent senator arlen spector. clinton offered sestak on their behalf an unpaid advisory job if he would just stay in congress and not challenge spector, a fellow democrat. sestak turned it down. the story got out in february. the white house set the record today. sestak today talked about his conversation with the former president. >> i almost interrupted the president and said, mr. president, i am going to decide to get in this or not only depending upon what's good for pennsylvania's working families,
not an offer. >> sestak, a former admiral did run against spector in the primary earlier this month and won. he and the white house say there was nothing improper or illegal about the job offer, but some republicans are alleging wrong doing and talking about an investigation. the memorial day travel rush is on tonight. this year it's a bit more of a rush than it was last year. last year, you'll recall, they coined the recession-induced term "stacation." aaa expects weekend travel to be up almost 5.4% from last year. 32 million people on the move, most by car. it was a scene right out of the movie. "up." if you had seen it over the english channel, you would have thought the same thing. it wasn't mr. frederickson. the gruff voice of ed asner. this time it was jonathan trapp of raleigh, north carolina, floating from england to france
in a chair attached to a bunch of balloons. although the trip took planning and effort, he had to pop some of the balloons himself to get down on the ground. he said the reason he did it was simply to fulfill the fantasy of going up in the air powered by a bunch of balloons, something you should never try without doug the dog onboard. balloons, something you should never try without doug the dog onboard.
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finally this friday night, our "making a difference" report takes us back where we started tonight's broadcast. same story we've been covering now close to 40 days, for that matter, in the gulf of mexico. we know that many of our viewers around the country are watching every night. they want to help, but in this disaster, it's hard to know how to help. it's not like other disasters when americans are urged to give to a relief organization like the red cross. well, tonight nbc's ron mott found a group of volunteers who have found a way to make a difference. >> reporter: in cajun country, the cry for help is loud and clear.
so, too, is the response that shrimpers, crabbers and oyster men and their families crowd for relief. this woman is getting food to those who need it funded in part by a million dollar donation from bp last year. >> it's their livelihood. for the past five years they've been struggling to put their lives back together and then to have this come along is just absolutely devastating. >> reporter: devastation you can see in their faces. >> i'm just doing the best i can right now to get buy. >> reporter: 74-year-old shrimper alan williams sought aid never thinking the oil spill would reach his bottom line. >> i never thought it would be this great, not really. we've got to see what happens. >> reporter: some people depend on making a living down on the bayou. for animals, clean water is a matter of life and death.
there is a passionate effort in place to save as many of them as possible. >> our big girl here was oiled. >> reporter: from a 136-pound loggerhead to brown pelicans and other birds, teams scrubbed and rinsed dozens back to health. >> we were ready to take whatever was necessary we had to take. this is worst-case scenario. >> reporter: this veteran of oil disaster says could be fleeting. >> this has a clear beginning and no end in sight. it's unique in the oil spill world. >> do you like it? >> reporter: helping hands, raising hopes for those calling the gulf home. on land and sea. ron mott, nbc news, empire, louisiana. that's our broadcast for this friday night. thank you for being here with us. lester holt will be with you this weekend. i'm brian williams. we hope you have a safe memorial day weekend. we also hope you'll find a moment to remember our veterans. we'll look for you back here again next week. good night.